Marina Abramović and Ulay - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Executed in 1986, Mickey Mouse is a rare example of Marina Abramović’s series of polaroids. This specific work was gifted by the artist to a close friend of hers in the Netherlands in 1987. Created as part of the landmark series of photographs staged in the Boston Polaroid studio between 1985 and 1986, Mickey Mouse is highly representative of the artists' commitment to social and political issues. Built by the Polaroid Corporation and used primarily for research purposes, the camera was made available to artists through a collaborative initiative. Like the familiar hand-held Polaroid cameras, it ejects one-of-a-kind photographs, employing similar technology.


    Mickey Mouse portrays Ulay, a German artist obscuring his face with the infamous mask. He is fashionably dressed, holding in one hand Mao’s red book and pointing upward with his other hand, one finger up. This series captures the moments of performance that is key in Abramović’s oeuvre, the modus vivendi- the co-existence of opposite or conflicting parties. The figure behind the camera partakes in the experience, yet stays hidden. According to Ulay, ‘From 1980 or 1981, our performances became more meditative... They had more of an esoteric, spiritual, meditative dimension to them. There was theatrical lighting and props involved; that was more Marina.’i


    Reoccurring themes throughout this series embodying modus vivendi includes an emphasis on male and female archetypes and highlighting different ethnic groups in America through the characters and props used. Mickey Mouse is at once an emblem to the Western entertainment industry which becomes politicised with Mao’s red book. It alludes to the communist body which Abramović was interested in during this period. Her partnership with Ulay underscores this subject as each artist was a by-product of their time. Born in Yougoslavia in 1946, Marina’s birth certificate shows the red star of Bolshevism, while that of Ulay, born in Germany in 1943, a swastika. Mickey Mouse thus reflects a complex multitude of politically charged subjects manifested in a single image.


    i Richard Saltoun, ed., Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, Amsterdam, 2014, p.178

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Belgium (a gift from the artist in 1987)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Ulay, Whispers- Ulay on Ulay, Valiz Founation, Amsterdam, 2014, no. 428, pp. 289, 492


Mickey Mouse

original polaroid
243 x 110 cm (95 5/8 x 43 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1986, this work is unique and is a part of a diptych with Black Waiter. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £44,100

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021